I worked on the construction of the bypass around Nanaimo, called the Nanaimo Parkway, for years in the late 1990s.
The concrete factory I worked at won the contract to provide all the concrete barriers for the parkway, and it took almost four years for us to provide the thousands of barriers that were required for the project.
I remember there was considerable opposition to the new four-lane highway that diverted traffic to the west of Nanaimo, avoiding the downtown core completely, because many feared it would result in a significant loss for many of the city’s businesses and tourist amenities.
It likely did to some degree, but the traffic congestion in the downtown core, where a two-lane road served as the highway through which all traffic travelling between Campbell River and Victoria had to pass, was getting out of hand even more than 20 years ago.
I’m on the busy Nanaimo Parkway a lot these days, and I can only imagine how horrendous travel would be in that city without it.
The issue about building a similar bypass around Duncan has now come forward again after it was discussed at a transportation meeting that was held jointly by the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan recently.
At the meeting, North Cowichan’s director of engineering David Conway asked councillors if they felt that it was time to revisit the idea of building a bypass to deal with the traffic bottlenecks that often occur on the TCH as vehicles transit through the community.
Conway said with the new Cowichan District Hospital soon to be constructed near the highway in the Bell McKinnon area, and the overall and continuing growth on southern Vancouver Island, the issue has arisen a number of times recently in the planning community.
He said this is a long-term planning issue, but planning would need to begin now if a decision was made to move the project forward.
No final decision on whether the bypass would be built was made at the meeting, but the issue has found some traction in the community, with many letter writers stating that a bypass is sorely needed, and even offering suggestions as to where it should be constructed.
A report commissioned in 2005 by the City of Duncan, the Cowichan Valley Regional District and other local authorities, discussed four possible routes for a bypass, but it was determined at the time that the high costs and impact to businesses and private-property owners of such a project would outweigh the benefits.
I saw the possible routes on a map in the report, and the amount of private property that would have to be purchased or expropriated, regardless if the planners decided on a short or a long route, would be very expensive and disruptive to those involved.
In 1990s Nanaimo, there was little development, if any, in the areas that were chosen for the new highway, but that’s not the case in present day Duncan and surrounding areas.
I wonder how many local politicians would be interested in taking on a project that would, undoubtedly, get a lot of push back from those that would be impacted by the construction.
It would also be, as I said, tremendously expensive and would take many years to complete; years longer than a politician’s term in office, so many of them wouldn’t be able to benefit politically from the project when it’s complete.
Perhaps the construction of a viaduct, in which flow-through traffic could, conceivably, drive above the present highway while local traffic could use the highway, would be the best solution.
That would be expensive as well, but at least we wouldn’t have to deal with the expense and disruption of expropriating land that is already in use.
I’m just throwing that out there; ultimately, it will be up to the planners and politicians to decide what, if anything, happens next.